Our many possible selves in music



Rosaleen Molloy

Posted: 2 October, 2018

Young musicians rehearse backstage before the annual Music Generation Carlow Gala Concert 2018 at VISUAL / George Bernard Shaw Theatre. Photo: michaelorourkephotography.ie

We have asked Rosaleen Molloy, National Director of Music Generation, to contribute to our music-themed blog series. Music Generation is Ireland’s national music education programme initiated by Music Network and co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Skills and Local Music Education Partnerships.

The vision for Music Generation was best expressed by U2’s Bono in 2009 when the band, together with The Ireland Funds, made a major philanthropic donation to establish Music Generation as Ireland’s new national infrastructure for performance music education. In his words: “What we want to do is really simple. We just want to make sure that everyone, whatever their background, gets access to music tuition. That’s the idea.”

In the eight years since, Music Generation has grown to reach a total of 20 counties in Ireland, creating some 48,500 opportunities each year for children and young people – who may never otherwise have had the opportunity – to access music tuition. On the ground, this has been achieved by engaging with local and community partners in each area to develop programmes that are specific to their contexts and responsive to their needs. Nationally, we have secured long-term financial support from the Department of Education and Skills to co-fund the programme into the future, once the philanthropic donations are spent. Looking ahead, it is envisaged that by 2022 children and young people in every city and county in Ireland will have an opportunity to access performance music education within their locality.

When we refer to “performance music education” (PME) we specifically mean the breadth of vocal and instrumental tuition, which embraces all genres and styles of music and is inclusive of all pedagogical approaches. Within Music Generation we understand that PME encompasses all musical cultures and traditions and is delivered by skilled, professional musician educators – currently a 400-strong team. As such, diversity is and always has been the hallmark of Music Generation. The belief that ‘there is no one single way’ of teaching, learning and making music is at the heart of its vision and embedded in its practice.

In 2013, the Board of Music Generation commissioned a two-year research project in partnership with DCU, then St Patrick’s College Drumcondra. The intention of the partnership was to investigate how the lives of children and young people can be transformed when they have access to diverse performance music education experiences. It also sought to guide the future direction of Music Generation as it continues to grow both in terms of breadth and depth of provision. The principal investigator at DCU was Dr Patricia Flynn who worked together with post-doctoral research fellow Thomas Johnston. A research board comprising Dr Flynn, Rosaleen Molloy (National Director, Music Generation), Prof Stephanie Pitts (University of Sheffield) and Prof Emer Smyth (ESRI) guided the research development.

In undertaking the research, Dr Johnston situated himself at the centre of Music Generation’s work, on-site in local areas, observing practice, interacting with a range of partners, attending events and meetings, in order to gain new insights, gather intelligence, tap into expertise and follow the journeys of those participating at all levels of the programme. By charting and documenting how the programme is managed, operated and delivered, both in principle and in practice, he revealed Music Generation to be a truly pioneering model for music education in Ireland that seeks positive and meaningful musical outcomes for children and young people.

The resulting document, “Possible Selves in Music”, presents an entirely new way of thinking about music education where the ultimate purpose is to support children’s music-making. It reveals often hidden aspects of the arrays of approaches to PME and offers a means for different genres and music practices to understand one another’s intentions. This also provides new insights into how children and young people experience meaning in music and draws out the many possible future outcomes that they may realise through those experiences – whether they go on to become a professional musician, be part of a musical community, or simply be socially and personally engaged through music-making as their lives progress. The research is a thinking tool for all those invested in Music Generation which connects its vision and intentions to the lived experiences of children and young people.

The research document is available to read and download free of charge on the Music Generation website, musicgeneration.ie.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in our guest blogs are the author’s own, and do not reflect the opinions of the Irish Research Council or any employee thereof.